« Society's View
Alcoholism is very different in men in women. Alcohol has different effects on each gender, and tends to be more of a focused effect on women as compared to men because of their body structure. Women are likely to start abusing alcohol later in life than men, but usually get help sooner than men. The way men are viewed when they drink is also very different when they drink excessively. For example, in this day and age it is not uncommon for men to drink excessively and be considered suave, whereas when women drink too much other people tend to look down on them. Because of this fact, women tend to enter and receive help a lot sooner than their male counterparts. When it comes to the onset of alcohol abuse, women start at an older age as compared to men.
Women are also at a high risk to becoming alcohol dependent if they live with a man who is dependent upon alcohol. Men differ in this category because if they live with or are married to a woman who is dependent upon alcohol they tend to divorce her. Women stay with their husbands if he has a drinking problem and divorce only becomes a way out if he becomes abusive.
« Physical Effects
Gender has a huge role in how alcohol affects two people of comparable height and weight but of opposite sex. Men have more water in their bodies as compared to women (52% for the average woman versus 61% for the average man) and the alcohol is diluted more, even for a man and woman of the same weight. Because of this, women are more at risk to the physiological effects of alcohol consumption.
Women are unable to metabolize alcohol as efficiently as men are because they have less of a liver enzyme (dehydrogenase) that converts alcohol into an inactive substance. Because of this, women feel the effects of alcohol a lot quicker than men do who are of comparable height and weight. This is why there are different limits set on women as compared to men. Women are given a limit of one alcoholic beverage, whereas men have a limit of two; an alcoholic beverage consists of a twelve ounce beer, a five ounce glass of wine or a one and a half ounce amount of spirits or whiskey.
Besides the effect of alcohol on women under normal conditions, premenstrual hormonal changes affect the action of alcohol on a woman's body and can cause intoxication to set in faster in the days right before the period. "External" factors such as birth control pills and other estrogen-containing medication can also slow down the rate at which alcohol is eliminated from the body.
Long-term, women's bodies are more sensitive to long-term alcohol-induced damage. Heavy-drinking women have a greater risk of high blood pressure, pancreas damage and liver disease, than male heavy drinkers. Further, more alcoholic women die from cirrhosis than do alcoholic men, proportionally.